UK: Political Strategy Firm Hired By "Key Member" of Russia's Klyuev Gang

A firm co-owned by Australian political strategist, Sir Lynton Crosby, allegedly accepted £45,000 (US$ 64,818) to work for a member of a Russian crime gang implicated in the death of anti-corruption whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, BuzzFeed said.

Dmitry Klyuev (left) and Andrei Pavlov (right) at an OSCE meeting in Monaco, in July 2012Dmitry Klyuev (left) and Andrey Pavlov (right) at an OSCE meeting in Monaco, in July 2012.
Crosby, who's worked on election campaigns for both the United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson, co-owns CTF Corporate and Financial Communications Limited (“CTF”). According to emails seen by BuzzFeed, the firm was engaged by law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP (“Debevoise”) on behalf of Russian lawyer, Andrey Pavlov.

The Lawyer and the Russian Crime Gang

US prosecutors alleged Pavlov is a “key member” of a “Russian criminal organization” which executed a US$ 230 million fraud and money laundering scheme against hedge fund Hermitage Capital Management and the Russian Treasury, BuzzFeed said. He represented companies at the center of the fraud.

The criminal organization is known as the Klyuev Group, named after Dmitry Klyuev, the Daily Beast said. The group, and its alleged links to the Magnitsky murder, have been reported on extensively by OCCRP and its partner Novaya Gazeta.

Pavlov provided legal services to Klyuev from time to time since 2001, US prosecutors said in a criminal complaint. The head of Hermitage Capital Management, William Browder, also alleged Pavlov was a deputy of Klyuev in a US court deposition in April 2015.

Several senior Russian officials from tax authorities and police were also complicit in the scheme. Some are now on US sanctions lists under the Magnitsky Act.     

The “Lobbying" Firm

Crosby’s company CTF agreed, in October 2014, to four weeks’ work identifying lobbying targets for the eventual purpose of having Pavlov’s name removed from the European Parliament’s recommended sanctions list, according to BuzzFeed.

In particular, CTF was to pinpoint MEPs “who might be amenable to representations to move to repeal the recommendation against Mr Pavlov.”

Pavlov’s lawyers described CTF to him as “the lobbying firm,” in correspondence obtained by BuzzFeed. The firm is not registered as an outside lobbyist on either UK or EU registers of lobbyists, BuzzFeed said.

Crosby himself was not personally involved in CTF’s work for Pavlov, according to emails obtained by BuzzFeed. Crosby’s spokesperson said he was working with the British Conservative Party at the time and would not have known what the firm was doing for other clients.

CTF told BuzzFeed its work for Pavlov was background research and nothing to do with lobbying.

Pavlov is one of 32 people named by Members of the European Parliament (MEP) in 2014 for being “involved in the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, its judicial cover-up and the continuing harassment of his family.” MEPs called for asset freezes and travels bans against the sanctioned names on the list.

Despite these moves, Pavlov continued to make regular trips to the UK even after being sanctioned, BuzzFeed found.

High-Profile Legal Representation

Pavlov was represented by former UK Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith, now a partner at Debevoise, BuzzFeed said. Goldsmith was also acting on behalf of another individual named on the sanctions list—Konstantin Ponomarev.

Goldsmith’s role was to challenge the sanctions recommendations for both men. He had apparently been sought out by Ponomarev to “add value” to his case, BuzzFeed said.  

Debevoise told BuzzFeed they couldn’t comment on confidential client matters but that “everyone was entitled to legal representation.”

Pavlov and Ponomarev have denied any wrongdoing in connection with the Magnitsky case, Buzzfeed said.

No UK "Magnitsky Act"?

Prime Minister Cameron has made public statements condemning the death of Sergei Magnitsky but has faced pressure from MPs for not having introduced UK sanctions or asset freezes, BuzzFeed reported.

Cameron said that despite the lack of a Magnitsky Act in the UK, which would ban people involved in Magnitsky’s murder or the corruption he uncovered from coming into the country, the UK does take action in such cases.  

However, BuzzFeed said that individuals allegedly connected to the Magnitsky case have regularly flown in and out of the UK without repercussions.